Puerto Rico mourns Keishla Rodriguez's death as boxer Félix Verdejo is indicted in her killing

·3 min read

Hundreds of people lined up outside a funeral home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to mourn the death of Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz, a 27-year-old pregnant woman who was killed last week. At the same time, a federal grand jury indicted Puerto Rican boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez and a second person in her killing.

Verdejo Sánchez and the second man, Luis Antonio Cádiz Martínez, were charged with one count of carjacking resulting in death, one count of kidnapping resulting in death and one count of killing an unborn child, U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Verdejo-Sánchez was also charged with a count of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

Rodríguez Ortiz was pregnant with Verdejo Sánchez's child, her family said.

IMAGE: Keishla Marlen Rodriguez Ortiz (Puerto Rico police)
IMAGE: Keishla Marlen Rodriguez Ortiz (Puerto Rico police)

Rodríguez Ortiz's body was found floating on the San José Lagoon near the Teodoro Moscoso bridge Saturday, two days after her family reported her missing. She was identified through dental records, Puerto Rico's Institute of Forensic Science said in a statement Sunday. Hours later, Verdejo Sánchez turned himself in to the authorities and was being held without bail.

"Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz was taken from a family that loved her, and she and her child were denied the most fundamental right of life, and the joy of knowing what that life could have been," Muldrow said. "We hope that this process brings some measure of solace to Keishla's family."

The FBI has been leading the investigation with the Puerto Rico Public Safety Department, the Puerto Rico Police Bureau and the Puerto Rico Justice Department.

Rodríguez Ortiz's parents, Keila Ortiz and José Antonio Rodríguez, were visibly moved by the crowds of people who showed up at their daughter's funeral. Many of them took flowers, balloons and stuffed animals to pay their respects.

"I did not want today to come. It is a very hard situation for the family," Ortiz said in a news conference outside the funeral home. "We are both going through an unimaginable pain."

'The abuse against women has to stop'

Rodríguez Ortiz's killing is the latest in a string of femicides that have claimed the lives of at least 21 women in Puerto Rico since January, according to the civil rights coalition Observatorio de Equidad de Género. At least 60 women were killed last year, a 62 percent increase in femicides compared to the previous year.

"Let her be the last," Ortiz said. "The abuse against women has to stop."

According to a criminal complaint, Rodríguez Ortiz was killed after she told "Verdejo that she was pregnant with his child based on a pregnancy test."

IMAGE: Felix Verdejo Sanchez in January 2020 (GDA via AP)
IMAGE: Felix Verdejo Sanchez in January 2020 (GDA via AP)

According to the criminal complaint, a witness told the FBI that Verdejo Sánchez contacted the witness asking for help terminating the pregnancy. Verdejo Sánchez and Rodríguez Ortiz met up near her home and drove separately to meet the witness, the complaint says. When they got to the meeting place, Rodríguez Ortiz got into Verdejo Sánchez's car, it says.

Following a conversation between the pair, Verdejo Sánchez punched Rodríguez Ortiz and then injected her with "a syringe filled with substances purchased from a drug point in Llorens Torres," a large housing project in San Juan, the complaint alleges.

Verdejo Sánchez and the witness tied Rodríguez Ortiz's arms and feet with wire and bound her to a cinder block, authorities alleged. They then drove to the bridge, where they threw Rodríguez Ortiz into the water, according to the complaint.

Verdejo then shot at Rodríguez Ortiz with a pistol from the bridge above, according to the complaint.

Cádiz Martínez, a former federal convict, is the witness who spoke to the FBI, NBC News' sister station Telemundo Puerto Rico reported. He is being held without bail until his the next court hearing on Tuesday.

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